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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow


Published: 12th September 2019 | Publisher: Orbit | Source: NetGalley
Alix E. Harrow's Website

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow's spellbinding debut--step inside and discover its magic.
The StoryGraph

I received sent this eProof for free from Orbit via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.


I absolutely loved Alix E. Harrow's second novel, The Once and Future Witches, so I was so looking forward to reading her debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and had quite high hopes. Unfortunately, it fell a little short of my expectations, and I was kind of disappointed.

I love the premise of the novel, and the whole idea that all of the fantasy stories we know are actually real and not fiction, that they just slipped through a door between our world and others, where magic is real. It's not exactly original, there are so many portal fantasies out there, but this book takes those stories and says, no, they're actually real. That there really are doors in the world, which had me thinking of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and The Starless Sea. The fact that doors exist that can take you elsewhere makes The Ten Thousand Doors of January seemlessly fit with so many other stories we know, and I just loved the idea of this huge, expansive multiverse, where all stories are connected. It just blew my mind and I loved it.

However, I also expected the story to be more about stories than it is. From the blurb, I expected the book January finds to be the key to other worlds. Stories are doors, and this book smells of other worlds, so it's going to take her to them, right? And she's going to have so many adventures in so many worlds! Actually, no. The story is about January, her life and her family, and her past. She lives with Mr. Locke, a very wealthy man for whom her father works, who travels the world looking for archelogical finds to steal from other cultures for the museum that is Mr. Locke's home. It's set in a time when racism is rife, and being a biracial young women, January is an oddity and anomoly herself that Mr. Locke parades at the party he hosts, for others to gawk at, along with his other treasures. But there's more to January's life and her past than she realises, and she's about to discover it with the help of a book, titled The Ten Thousand Doors, that tells of doors to other worlds.

The book tells the story of other people who found doors and went travelling, and in telling the story of these people and what they found, certain truths about January herself are revealed. January does not herself travel through ten thousand doors and visit ten thousand worlds, and that is where the story really disappointed me. In the great scheme of things, she barely goes anywhere. Because this isn't really a story about doors and other worlds, it's about January, the life she lives, and the lies she's been told.

We do get to read The Ten Thousand Doors along with January, so there's a story within a story. And you would think maybe through this story, we get to see and visit the worlds January doesn't. But not really. The book she is reading is very much tell instead of show. We find out very little about these worlds, just little glimpses that tell us the doors to those worlds exist, and someone went there and came back - again and again. Honestly, I just found it so frustrating! I honestly feel the title and the blurb are misleading. And having read The Once and Future Witches, which is absolutely incredible, I expected so much more to take place than actually does. I was so completely underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, things do happen; January does have an adventure of her own, and at times the story is terrifying, and at others absolutely devastating. But I expected more. I do think I would have enjoyed Harrow's debut more if I had read it before The Once and Future Witches - a book in which so much happens - but I still would have been disappointed by the lack of actually travelling through ten thousand doors.

The story I wanted, that I expected, is very likely The Ten Thoudand Doors that January reads, but novel length, with more show than tell, expanded, to show us the worlds these people travelled to, what they saw and experienced there, and the bittersweetness of discovering such incredible things, but not finding what they were actually looking for. That story could even be a series, and one I would absolutely have lapped up. But that's not the story we have, and for me, January's story was really disappointing.

But that's just me. There are many others who have loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so do make sure you read other reviews before deciding whether or not you'll give it a go.

Thank you to Orbit via NetGalley for the eProof.

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